Death’s door: Did somebody die in the house you are buying?

October 10, 2018

If you are in the market for a new home, your home inspection may provide a reality check about the structure, itself: Oops, there are termites. Yes, the paint is lead-based.

But will you be forewarned that deaths or depravities have occurred on your new doorstep? Not so much.

In facts, there are few cities or states where full disclosure is required. For example, California law requires owners to acknowledge if a death occurred on the premises—but only if it took place within the previous three years. Fifteen states have a law that, only if the buyer asks and only if the seller knows, are they required  to disclose the information, but no legal action can be taken if they do not.

And the fact is, people care about the history of the homes. A 2007 Associated Press poll found that 34% of Americans admit that they believe in ghosts—and even larger numbers say that they just would not want to live in a place where someone has died, no matter how “natural” the demise was.

What’s more, looking at the economics, a death in a home—especially a tragic death—can impact its value by more than 25% and take it 50% longer to sell than comparable homes, according to Realtor.com.

So what’s a buyer to do? Luckily, there’s a website that can help. DiedinHouse.com “is the first of its kind, Web-based service that helps you find out if anyone has died at any valid U.S. address,” the site claims.

Founded in 2013 by software engineer Roy Condrey, DiedInHouse.com enables users to determine if the home of their dreams has had a dark former life (or even accommodates the afterlife). From murders and suicides to meth activity and arson, website uses data from over 130 million police records, news reports, old death certificates and more to determine if your house has seen horrors.

Condrey told Forbes in a 2015 interview that the website’s creation resulted from a “ghost story.” In 2012, Condrey received a text message in the middle of the night from one of his tenants that read: “Did you know that your house is haunted?” Condrey, who rents several properties, went down a cyber rabbit hole seeking, but could not determine if his property had, indeed, been the site of a gruesome crime or death.

“I went online to find a ‘Carfax’ of sorts for deaths in homes and I didn’t find anything—but I did find pages and pages of people asking if there’s a way to find out if their house is haunted,” Condrey told the business news outlet.

He later learned through his data collection that, in fact, at least 4.5 million homes nationwide have had documented deaths take place on the premises. The number of homeowners that know about the history of their home, however, is unknown.

Sometimes the house is new, but the property has seen violent crimes in the past. Condrey pointed out that “serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr., raped and murdered at least 33 teenage boys then buried 26 of them in the crawl space of his home in Chicago. The house was demolished and in 1988 a new house was built in its spot.” That’s information that new buyers probably would want to know.

He tells another true story of a father and his daughter who were murdered in their house in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2002. Their deaths were not disclosed to the new owner, a middle school principal. He was shocked when he found out, but could not legally back out of the deal. He moved into the house; then had the house blessed by his church. In 2010, he was found murdered there. After that, the address was changed from 9337 to 9335 Columbia Boulevard—and it went back on the market. It ultimately sold for just $330000 in February 2012; comparables in the same area go for $507,000.

Considering the price–both psychological and monetary—of buying such a home, the cost of a report from the website seems reasonable. The price of 1 search is $11.99.

Research contact: info@DiedinHouse.com

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